April 15, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Los Angeles, CA -When the city of Los Angeles set a $15.37-an-hour minimum wage for hotel workers two years ago, the law contained one major loophole: Union workers could be paid less.
UNITE HERE officials say the exemption gives them the flexibility to negotiate better benefits, and Local 11 President Tom Walsh said it might also cause hotel owners “to be less resistant to unionization.” But it also creates a paradox where some workers at union hotels, such as the Sheraton Universal in Studio City, are making only the state minimum of $10, while nonunion workers at nearby hotels make more. “It's completely upside-down,” said waitress Alicia Yale, 42, who has found it difficult to work enough hours to qualify for health benefits. San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and other California cities have included similar waivers in their recent minimum-wage laws, and Los Angeles, which is considering raising its minimum to $15, may do the same. “I just think unions should not be in the business of carving out lower wage standards for ourselves," said SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West President Dave Regan, a main proponent of California's new $15 minimum. "We don't help ourselves with anybody—with our members or with the public—by defending the indefensible." Read more